Jim Baumbach is an investigative / enterprise sports reporter for Newsday. A Long Island native, he started working
Smacked off the end of the bat, Huff's dribbler had the look of a golfer's chip shot onto the green. Yet Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy was understandably playing the Giants' lefthanded-hitting slugger to pull, so the best he could do once he reached it was try a fruitless jump-twirl-and-throw.
Nice effort, but it didn't matter. By the time Murphy's throw reached first, the slow-footed Huff had already ran through the bag for the first hit off Chris Capuano. And just like that another chance at the first no-hitter in Mets history was gone.
Now in their 50th year of existence, the Mets have played 7,836 regular-season games (and 74 postseason) without a no-no, a stretch that Mets fans surely were reminded of upon learning that the Twins' Francisco Liriano held the White Sox hitless Tuesday night.
Liriano's was the first no-hitter of the season, and the 127th since the Mets started in 1962. The only other major-league organization without a no-hitter is the San Diego Padres, and they've played more than 1,000 fewer games than the Mets.
"It may be shocking to people who rise and fall under the gavel of statistics, but for me in particular I appreciate how difficult it is to do it," R.A. Dickey said. "Something like 7,000 games, sure it seems like a lot, but in the whole scheme of it all it takes is just one small thing to mess it up."
"It was the pitcher," Dickey said, incredulously. "The pitcher."
Still stung by the memory of what might have been, Dickey said, "That was kind of tough. The one hit I gave up was a bleeder over the second baseman's head. By the pitcher. You wish it would have ended up differently."
A few lockers away, Chris Young can relate. Late in the 2006 season Young took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, staring at the possibility of throwing the first in Padres history.
But after getting the first out of the inning, Young gave up a home run to Pirates pinch hitter Joe Randa. When Young predicted that night that "it's just a matter of time" before the Padres would throw their first no-hitter, it sounded as if he believed they were overdue.
Presented with that theory Wednesday, Young all but laughed. "How many are thrown per year? Two or three?" he asked. He's right. Although there were six thrown last season, there's been an average of 2.25 per season the last 20 years.
"And how many games are played a year?" Young asked, and then we quickly did the math, calculating 2,430 regular-season games a season. At which point Young laughed again.
"And there are only two or three no-hitters out of that?" he said. "That's a real small percentage of games that no-hitters are thrown in."
Which is true, and it makes sense. But that doesn't make it any easier for Mets fans to accept why their team keeps failing to accomplish a feat that every other team except one -- including the most recent expansion franchises -- has done.
"You would think somebody would have done it, but no hitters and perfect games, they're special events," Jon Niese said. "And if it's meant to be, meant to happen, it will happen."